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Photographing Your Kids

Taking photos of our kids allows us to preserve brief slices of time before they grow up, which we all know happens way too fast. But aside from the professional family photos most of us have taken once a year or so, the rest of what we haphazardly capture on our smartphones is worthy of little more than a share on Instagram or a text to Grandma. They certainly aren’t good enough to enlarge, frame and hang on a gallery wall. But you don’t have to own a fancy camera to get great, print-quality shots of the kids. We chatted with some of the busiest children’s photographers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and asked them to share their tricks. Here, the tips for getting the best shots:
 
Timing is everything
 “Avoid shooting in harsh daylight because it causes shadows on the face,” cautions Jayme Okerblom of Miette Photography in Dallas. Rather, opt to take photos when the sun isn’t overhead.
 
“The absolute best time to photograph is either during early morning or an hour or two before sunset,” says Lauren Stohlman, who works throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the owner and lead photographer of Julia Lauren Photography. “We call those windows of time the ‘golden hours’ and since lighting is everything in photography, that’s when you’ll get your best shots.” That’s because sunlight is less direct, has a softer and warmer sheen and casts an almost magical glow on the kiddos.
 
But if mid-day is the only time to get your crew together, find a fully shaded spot to take pictures, advises Fort Worth photographer Nicole Smitt of Nicole Smitt Photography.
 
Let the light in
Natural light is the most flattering. “No matter where you are, if you have great lighting, you can get beautiful photographs,” Stohlman explains. “If you’re photographing your children indoors, try to get right next to a window or open door, so you can take advantage of sunlight streaming in.” Have kids face slightly towards the window or open door instead of looking at it head on, Smitt adds. And avoid shadows by having them take a few steps away from a wall or other background.
 
Framing by fractions
The pros follow something called the “rule of thirds” when composing their shots. Rather than centering a subject, they divide their visual into thirds and experiment moving the camera so the subject ends up more in the right or left of the frame instead of smack in the center, explains Lindsay Walden of Lindsay Walden Photography in Hurst.
 
Keep the backdrop simple
“Move your subject around until the background is less distracting,” Walden suggests. “Make sure that there are no tree branches directly behind their head [for instance].” And if the kiddos are less than compliant, move yourself. “Be thoughtful about what you’re capturing in the frame and move around a lot to get the best background,” she adds.
 
Get low
“Get eye level with [kids], or lower,” says Sharon Cleveland, principal photographer of Sharon Cleveland Photography in Fort Worth. “Never point your camera down at your subject. Get down on your knees or squat.”
 
Don’t cover your face
Flower Mound photographer Missy Mayo encourages parents to keep the camera away from their face when shooting. “Babies and toddlers love for you to maintain eye contact while interacting with them, so if you hide your face behind a lens they almost always turn away,” she says. “I like to keep the camera at chest level.”
 
Use the right equipment
For professional looking photos that can be enlarged, Okerblom suggests photographing with a DSLR camera. However, it’s not always going to be convenient (or affordable) to lug around a big camera.
 
“Smartphones like iPhones are great because we always have them handy,” says Cleveland, who offers this trick: “Get down so you’re at eye level and focus your camera on your child by clicking on your screen, directly on them.” Then snap the picture.
 
Get candid
“Capture those moments when they’re running around with their lovey or sitting on a blanket reading their favorite book,” Stohlman says. “Just take your children out and let them play.”
 
It’s all in the perspective
Shoot from further back, then change things up by getting close-up shots of details, says Lisa McNiel of Lisa Marie Photography in Flower Mound. Get a shot of just the hands when your little ones are holding each other’s or focus on your kiddo’s face when he’s laughing hysterically.
 
Smile pretty
There’s certainly no formula for getting that perfect smile every time, so the pros go for laughs. “Depending on their age, I’ll play peek-a-boo, make funny noises and ask if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend,” says Melissa Dieterich, Fort Worth newborn photographer and owner of Melissa D Photography. Do whatever it takes to crack your kids up.